LINCOLNTON, N.C. — A former Lincolnton police detective, who was tasked with targeting child predators, said he was silenced, suspended and fired after he discovered information about a fellow officer.
His statement said what the top brass at the police department did was illegal, and stated that one of their own officers was involved in an online child predator sting but they ignored it.
Police said it’s a personnel matter and they can't comment on it, but that hasn't stopped their former investigator from telling his side.
Brent Heavner, the former investigator, took a seat at the defendant's table in court Wednesday, when the district attorney wanted recordings from his personnel file.
"He was fired for doing the job he was sworn to do," Heavner’s attorney, Michael Elliot, said.
Heavner worked on investigations involving what he called some of the worst child predators and as part of the former detective’s job, he went online pretending to be a 14-year-old and then arrested men who tried to meet him for sex, Elliot said.
One of the men who connected with Heavner online was a fellow unnamed Lincolnton police officer, Elliot said.
"He reported that to his superiors, trusting that (the) investigation (would) be transitioned to the State Bureau of Investigations. That didn't happen," Elliot said in a statement.
The attorney said when Heavner found more evidence, he was suspended and fired as a cover-up.
Police informed the district attorney that Heavner lied during an internal investigation, calling into question his reliability as a witness.
"The termination of Officer Heavner is in violation of the law and an effort to distract from that and an effort to discredit him," Elliot said.
The police chief and second-in-command said it's a personnel matter and they can't talk about it.
Residents in town are asking why the city wouldn’t investigate an officer who may have been preying on children.
"It just lowers my faith in the police department," resident Tony Clark said.
He worries that the internal fight between police may give convicted sex offenders a chance at clear their names, and may have let one officer elude investigation for a serious crime.
"They are supposed to be held to a higher standard," Clark said.
The DA said today this is a matter between the police department and the city hall.
The city manager said he can't comment because he still has a grievance hearing with Heaver.
The mayor said he doesn't know enough about this matter to comment.
Below is the full statement made by Heavner’s attorney:
"Detective Brent Heavner has served North Carolina as a law enforcement officer for nearly 25 years, after serving the country as a United States Marine. For the past three years, as a detective, he has focused on the apprehension of online sexual predators who target children. His work has led to his inclusion in a federal task force and he has been named a 'Champion of Children.'
"During the course of one investigation, Detective Heavner discovered information about a fellow Lincolnton Police Officer. He reported that to his superiors, trusting that the investigation would be transitioned to the State Bureau of Investigation. That did not happen. When Detective Heavner uncovered new evidence potentially related to that investigation, he was again silenced, culminating in his suspension and termination.
"In an effort to distract from their illegal actions, the Lincolnton Police Department now is attempting to discredit Officer Heavner by attacking his credibility, which has never been questioned. This distraction should be seen for what it is: a transparent attempt to justify the termination of a police officer for doing the job he was sworn to do."
Cox Media Group